US records most hurricane-force gusts in a single day

Earlier data, going back to 2004, shows the most hurricane-force gusts in a single day was 53 on Aug 10, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Record-breaking winds tore through the United States on Wednesday and early on Thursday (Dec 16), causing the highest number of hurricane-force gusts in a single 24-hour period since at least 2004, the National Weather Service said, days after one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in US history.

A total of 61 gusts of above 75 miles per hour (121kmh) were recorded across a number of mostly Midwestern states from 6am CST to 6am CST on Thursday, according to the weather service's Storm Prediction Centre.

The Norman, Oklahoma-based centre also recorded 19 tornadoes.

"It's certainly an unprecedented event," said meteorologist Matt Elliot, who coordinates weather warnings for the centre.

Previously, in data going back to 2004, the most hurricane-force gusts in a single day was 53 on Aug 10, 2020, Elliot said. Colleagues were collating data from earlier than 2004, and expected the record to hold, he said.

Wednesday's severe weather caused multiple power outages and disruption at Kansas City International Airport in Missouri, as well as reports of wildfires. More than 450,000 homes and businesses were without power in the affected states as of Thursday afternoon, according to the tracking website PowerOutage.

At least 75 people were killed in Kentucky and 14 in nearby states when a storm system packing a swarm of tornadoes swept through the region last Friday.

In Northern California, a blizzard closed a major highway linking California and Oregon after vehicles were seen skidding or getting stuck on Interstate 5, the state's Department of Transportation said.

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